Falling in Love With Biking in NYC

It was a chilly day in April when I committed. After months of interest, research and planning I finally did it. I purchased a bike.

Not “a” bike, but an Xtracycle. A FAMILY BIKE.

First, some background on how I fell in love with biking in NYC.

After what seemed like an eternity while NYC was planning a bike share program, CitiBike finally opened up registration in April 2013. Luck would have it, I managed to register in the first few hours of open registration. I’m proud to have one of the first hundred CitiBike accounts on a system that has over a hundred sixty thousand annual members now, and still wear my “founding member” T-shirt proudly.

In June 2013 when CitiBike finally got rolling, I started biking in NYC regularly.

For the first two years, I was part of CitiBike’s re-balancing problem where I unbalanced as many bikes as possible by riding religiously in just one direction (Sorry CitiBike!). Subway to work in the morning. CitiBike home in the evening. Rinse and Repeat.

The first summer of riding was tougher than I let on. The “I’m-out-of-shape” feeling was a regular companion despite only riding two miles. While CitiBike’s are sturdy, they are not particularly light bikes. Slowly though, my muscles adapted. Riding started becoming more and more enjoyable, and the “I’m-out-of-shape” feeling faded.

Through rain or shine, snow or sleet, I found myself riding home. Some of my favorite moments on NYC streets turned out to be the quiet deserted streets during the middle of a good snow storm. It took longer than I thought to bike in snow, but when you take it slow and steady it’s quite enjoyable.

Fast forward to 2015. A plan for the Summer.

A summer picnic in Central Park

In planning the summer of 2015, @selamair and I were expecting our third bundle of joy. I knew I’d have a month off from work (thanks Bitly!) to spend with the two older kids and to do my best to keep them out of the house.

The plan was simple.

Get a bike that could fit two kids. Bike to as many spots as possible. Stay out of the house. Let Mama and the newborn get some rest.

Our bucket list however, involved anything but rest.

Queens Borough Bridge

We started by visiting playgrounds on the west side of Manhattan.

  • Pier 51 Play Area
  • Pier 46
  • Rockefeller Park
  • The Little Engine Playground @ W68th
  • Picking Mulberries by the water in Fort Washington Park
  • The Nature Discovery Playground @ Fort Washington Park
Inspiration Point — Fort Tyron Park

While it took some practice to avoid kids falling asleep on the bike, each adventure was a blast! As I began getting more comfortable with longer rides, we began setting our sights a little further from home.

Our unofficial goal was to ride all the (rideable) bridges that connect to Manhattan.

We managed to visit:

  • The Little Red Lighthouse under the Washington Bridge
  • New Jersey — via the Washington Bridge (oh my, oh my, what a maze and elevation change to get up to the bridge!)
  • The full Central Park Loop (passing toursists goin uphill with two kids on the bike makes for fun moments)
  • Bronx — via the newly opened High Bridge
  • Astoria Park — via the Queens Borough Bridge
  • The splash pool at LeFrak Center, Prospect Park — via Brooklyn Bridge
  • Red Lantern Bicycles via Manhattan Bridge to get fenders installed on the bike. (Also where we purchased the Xtracycle and Yepp Maxi kids seats there. Super friendly folks!)
  • Inwood Hill Park (seeking the hidden northern most point of Manhattan)
  • NYC Summer Streets and over the Brooklyn Bridge

Biking has unlocked a part of NYC that I hadn’t experienced before, and that I’ve fallen in love with.

Riverbank State Park — Last day in October. Time to admit summer is gone.

In August 2015, nearing summers end, Bitly outgrew it’s space and relocated a measly four blocks north on 5th Ave. It shouldn’t have disrupted my commute at all. It sounds like nothing. It was however, just enough to push me to try CitiBike in the morning, and this time it stuck. I’m now hooked on riding both ways.

In lieu of my typical “Personal Annual Report” which I’ve done for six years running, I’ll share some stats on my biking throughout 2015.

You can see when I had time off to bike in the summer during the middle of the day (July), and that I started biking in the morning in August. Also visible is the utility of CitiBike for odd random short trips in the evening or mid-day. CitiBike totally beats Subway/Bus/Taxi/Walking for many of my trips.

Unsurprisingly, I can’t wait to add a 3rd kid seat to the bike this year.